Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to their 18th birthday who are in full-time education, or who have a disability.
Child Benefit is currently paid to around 620,000 families in respect of some 1.19 million children, with an estimated expenditure in the order of over €2 billion in 2016. Child Benefit is an important source of income for all families and in Budget 2016 the Government increased Child Benefit by €5 per month, at a cost of €72 million.
Budget 2009 reduced the age for eligibility for Child Benefit from 19 years to less than 18 years. A value for money review of child income supports, published by the Department of Social Protection in 2010, found that the participation pattern of children in education supports the current age limit for Child Benefit.
Families on low incomes can avail of a number of provisions to social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:
- qualified child increases (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;
- family income supplement (FIS) for low-paid employees with children;
- the back to school clothing and footwear allowance for low income families (paid at the full-time second level education rate).
These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked with household income and thereby supports low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.